For the first time in my life I’ve started to really examine privilege. Up until this point (as a straight white male) it has been easy to ignore the issue of privilege. Not just easy, effortless, I know I’ve heard it mentioned before, but it was usually in sort of a “count your blessings” sort of way that never got my attention. Part of this is that I’ve been inoculated against the very idea of privilege since childhood. I honestly I don’t think I’d be examining it now if I hadn’t noticed that a lot of my straight privilege went up in smoke when I began to identify as kinky.
I guess I benefit from a great deal of privilege, an interesting article describes being a straight white male as being the Lowest difficulty setting for life, though I find describing privilege as “an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks” is a more helpful analogy to explain how one benefits from privilege even if you don’t realize it.
Even as I’m trying to read about this and examine it part of me rails against it, and I feel defensive. In almost everything I read privilege is something experienced and perpetuated by men, by white people and by straight people. Especially when it comes to male privilege I have trouble making my brain accept that it is a thing.
I begin to feel like posts about sexism are in some way attacking me as a man for the actions of other men. In fact I can remember feeling like I was being attacked for being male since I was a boy, there just seems to be this belief that starts with “girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice and boys are made of Snips and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails” and never stops until women are, in the public’s mind, blameless paragons of virtue and men a violent slavering beasts of uncontrollable lust.
Having heard for so long that my gender was the shameful progenitor of all of the woes of the modern world, that men were bullies, heart-breakers, cheaters, beaters, abusers, abandon-ers, rapists, murders, thieves, embezzlers, fraudsters, dictators, warlords, and worse, I think it is quite reasonable that I should have a mental category for “Other men.”
On one hand I don’t feel like I’m anything like “other men” and on the other hand when reading anecdotes about men behaving badly towards women, I put myself in the man’s shoes much of the time, and find myself trying to defend actions I would never do, or words that I would never say. There is a point somewhere in the topic of sexism, where a man goes from being a guy like me to being an other man. Guys like me are never being sexist, they were just misunderstood. Other men are just assholes and you can’t judge a guy like me based on the words or actions of some other man.
I think that this part of what makes it hard to have a conversation about privilege, Guys like me aren’t sexist/racist/homophobic, Other men are, but when privilege is tied to our culture being inherently unfair in a sexist/racist/homophobic manner then it makes Guys like me feel like they’re being lumped in with those Other men.
Another thing is that it is a difficult thing to accept that the world is unfair in my favor, my life kinda sucks, or at the very least I’m not terribly happy with it right now. It just doesn’t seem like the odds are really stacked in my favor. Maybe I’m just contradictory but as I’ve gone down privilege checklists while putting this post together I see a lot of little things that I don’t feel like I’m getting any benefit from or flat out are not part of my experience.
Which is not to say that I’m not privileged, just that it’s damn near impossible to recognize. What sticks out to me are the privilege that I’m “supposed” to get that I don’t, or the privileges that not only do I not want, represent the opposite of my desires.
As I said much of straight privilege is tied to vanilla privilege, if I think of my submissiveness as an orientation (which may be messy, but for me it works) I don’t qualify for a lot of straight privilege, especially in my community where to out myself as submissive would be on par with coming out as gay.
White privilege I guess is what it easiest for me to ignore. I grew up in a majorly white region and so racism wasn’t just something I didn’t have to deal with, but nobody I ever knew had to deal with it either. I realize that I sort of have some thoughts that might be racism-apologist, that I got from working in the service industry.
Hypothetically: if you sling java long enough you notice that customers with handlebar mustaches tend to tip less/be rude/complain more than customers that don’t have handlebar mustaches, eventually you realize that you brace yourself for this behavior whenever you see a customer with a handlebar mustache , even if it’s their first time visiting your store. Now, you’re not usually prejudice, but when you hear other employees complain about handlebar mustachioed people you start to think that perhaps since these ideas about people with handlebar mustaches are true, well maybe there is a reason people complain about people with neck-beards, or soul-patches as well…
You see where I’m going with this? I’m trying to be a better person than I would be if I weren’t thinking about this all the time. Right now this is the only place I have to hash this out. My roommates are not interested in intellectual discussion of any sort, I’m currently unemployed, but even on the job conversation like this doesn’t happen, my social life is non-existant, and my family, well I’d tried mother’s day weekend to discuss a bit of this.
I had already seen the avengers but I went again with my Mom and on the way discussed a blog post I had read about it, which decried Joss Whedon’s failure to include more female characters in the film. Basically she didn’t get what all the fuss was about since the film was packed from beginning to end and you couldn’t fit anyone else in it, which is true. But when I suggested that the fact there are so few female heroes to begin with was problematic she didn’t really accept that either.
So what I’m getting at here is that if I seem painfully unaware of my privilege, I’m working on it, by myself, and when I try to discuss these issues in real life I by comparison to my peers come off as I don’t know, not just feminist or liberal but radically so in the stirring up trouble where there wasn’t any before.
So, please have patience.